Salar de Uyuni, 4 days trip to the moon
Although we were coming from north of Peru, we’ve decided to go directly to Tupiza from Potosi. We wanted to start our Uyuni trip from there. Given there were protests and barricades across the whole country and Dakar was going through Tupiza exactly when we’ve decided to go, it wasn’t a walk through a rose garden. The 200km drive took us close to 11hours and many stops, but you somehow get used to it after a while.
Anyway, we got in around 1am and simply built a tent by the river. Everything was booked out and 4x more expensive because of Dakar.
First thing in the morning we started to walk around agencies and negotiate a tour to Uyuni.
- the only tour you get at Tupiza to Uyuni is a 4day one, that’s how long it takes to reach the salt lake
- people tend to choose start in Tupiza because you’ll end with the highlight and not the other way around
- tours are way more expensive from Tupiza than from the town of Uyuni
- if you are after 1,2,3 day tour you need to start from Uyuni
- 3 day tour from Uyuni with Spanish guide cost around 700BOB, with English guide 1300BOB pp
- 4 day tour from Tupiza cost 1150-1250BOB pp with Spanish driver/guide
- extra fees to the national park are 200 BOB pp
- itineraries of all the providers from Tupiza seem all the same
- it’s weird but if you want to take shower in any of the hostels, you have to pay extra
We went to every single agency in town, each could offer us pretty much the same service for the same price and ability to start the next day.
The biggest agencies in town are Tupiza Tours, Alejandro adventure, Adventurista and La Torre. First and last have the best reviews, so we simply chose La Torre as the lady selling the tours had awesome English and was nice.
They’ll give you an option if you want 4 or 5 ppl in the car. Go for the 5ppl option as you’ll pay 1150BOB and in total it will be 6 ppl in the car with a driver. If you opt in for the 4 person option, you will have to pay 1250BOB pp but still be 6ppl in the car, as you will have the cook with you.
The price includes all accomodation for 3 nights in basic hostels, food (lunch, dinner, snacks on the 1st day; breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and 2l of water pp on 2nd day; same on 3rd + wine with dinner and breakfast, lunch and water on the 4th day), driver and transport.
Where to stay in Tupiza
We stayed at their La Torre hostel for 160BOB per night with private bathroom and breakfast, which was actually pretty decent. The only downside was that the inside and only window didn’t have curtains and was very see through even throughout the day. I have a strong feeling 3 gringo guys saw us doing adult things with Martin 😉
Higher end option is Mitru hotel where Tupiza tours resides . They have also more budget option for 50BOB pp in dorm and you can use the swimming pool in the hotel which is nice.
7.30am sharp was a start of our tour. We were in a car with 3 British travellers, couple and their good friend. You are going to spend lot of time in the car, therefore your carmates are very important. We were really lucky as we hit it off pretty well from the first moment. Altogether we were 5 cars from the same company but we kept distance from anyone else beside 1 another car. It never felt crowded throughout the day.There is a lot of driving through desert on day 1. Main focus is llamas, vicuñas and the many different views of some of the driest land on planet Earth.
Lunch has been served around 12pm and we were super pleased by the amount of food, variety of salads (yep, greens too) and grapes for desert. Martin opted in for vegetarian meals for this trip and although they were egg heavy on some days, chef Modesta never forgot about him.
By 5.30pm we arrived to our accomodation where we shared a room with our British mates and some other ppl, it was basic but totally fine. Modesta had tea, coffee and cookies set up for us before dinner. For dinner we always had a soup and second. We started chatting and didn’t stop until 10pm.
Roberto our awesome and super safe driver came to explain what is going to happen the next day.
Advice: Bring wine from Tupiza if you want to have some with dinner. The few places which were selling alcohol along the rode were asking crazy prices.
We started at 6.30 with alarm clock, 7.30am we were in the road again. The highlights of the day were hot springs, geysers and seeing flamingoes. It was my favourite day of them all.
Food was excellent, maybe little too much on the sweet site. Lunch was served near the termales. I don’t recommend using toilets there. We definitely put on weight in those 4 days as there is not that much exercise involved.
Throughout the day, we stopped by in the hostel where we stayed to book the room. This is the place where all the tours come. From Chile from San Pedro de Atacama, from Uyuni or Tupiza, everyone ends up at laguna Colorada and stays in the same village. It might feel little crowded but the views and the colours are just not from this world. But where are they from then? And flamingos are literally everywhere you look.
Second night we had a traditional Bolivian dish Pique Macho for dinner. So unhealthy, but so good. Roberto came to talk about plans for the following day. We were so cheerful and so excited from the new experiences of day 2 that we got happily tipsy. The wine was much cheaper from tienda in the village (40 BOB per bottle of nice Bolivian wine)
Advice: Make sure you are properly acclimatised before going to Uyuni as you’ll be close to 5000m at some spots. I also had problems breathing the whole time as it is really dry.
We called it the day of lagoons. 6am sharp wake up call but pancakes made our suffering so much better and at 7am we were on our way. Roberto told us (in Spanish) the story of Butch Cassidy (famous American bandit) who got killed in the Bolivian desert. Many Americans come to place flowers at his grave. This day we got to see Dali’s desert, Piedra de arbol, volcanoes and the highlight was trying coca or quinoa beer. Quinoa is pretty much the only thing that grows in these conditions. The whole day we were talking about and at some point even rehearsed different positions we were going to take for our Salar de Uyuni pictures. It didn’t prepare us for the reality but we had so much fun 😉
The last night we stayed in a hostel made out of salt. It was different and we had a massive storm doing a performance for us. The only silly thing was that they locked bathroom in every room and let everyone use only the 3 common toilets and 2 showers that you had to pay for 10BOB extra. Everyone needs a shower at this stage.
Goodbye dinner of awesome tuna lasagna was served with red wine. Early night in, as we needed to get ready for the last day of our adventure.
4.30am wake up call, this time without breakfast as we needed to get to Uyuni lake before the sunrise. Because it rained a lot the previous night, the whole group of drivers decided that we will go through the lake but won’t be able to access the famous cactus island. We were stoked that we get to go through the lake so didn’t complain too much. Roberto had to drive 20km/h the whole time on a lake.
Because of the rain, we got the mirror like reflection when it looks like you are walking on the water. It happens only during the rainy season.
Then we got to do even more pictures on the drier part of the lake before lunch was served on dry land. Last stop for us was at the train cemetery. Roberto doesn’t like to go there and didn’t get out of the car. Because of the pollution problem and the strong winds here, the plastic bags and other garbage are flying everywhere around the cemetery. There are no trees, no woods to protect the town from winds and no urgency from people or government to do anything about the lack of waste management.
Town of Uyuni is where we split with our British friends and off they went to Sucre. We are returning to Tupiza with Roberto. The 250km road takes almost 5hours but we did catch a night bus to Tarija.
In the 4 days you drive almost 1200km. It’s a lot of time spent in the car but all in all we felt it was money well spent. Organisation, sites, amount of food was excellent. We never felt insecure when Roberto was driving. We would welcome more info but whenever we asked he was keen to answer and talked slowly so we would understand.
The improvement can be definitely done on the national park side. They ask for entrance fee and pretty high one but don’t feel obliged to provide clean toilets. We don’t ask for flash toilets or toilet paper, we just want them to pick the garbage and clean them on a regular basis.
Also the hostels shouldn’t ask for extra money for showers, that should be included in the price.
Hope this helps. We didn’t get paid for this review but simply were happy with what we’ve got wit La Torre tours.
We’ve been on this tour in January 2018. If you have more up to date information, please do share it in comments. Thank you.